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Learning Activities

Learning Activities



You, as parents, are your child's first and most important teacher. Children spend more time at home than they do at school. Each day, your child learns from you. This is not forced learning but comes naturally as you talk, play, work and relax together. At times, you may wonder about what kinds of experiences you could be showing your child. Exactly what should a child, ages 3&5, be learning and how do I help him acquire these skills?


We prepared this book for you as a brief guide to these basic skills:

  • Concept Development
  • Communication Skills
  • Gross and Fine Motor Development
  • Social Development
We intend for you to use this booklet as a source of ideas and suggestions. Please keep in mind that your child is a unique individual. Your child will not develop the same skills at the same time as his siblings or the children in the neighborhood. He will develop according to his own physical, mental and emotional needs. Don't be concerned if your child cannot succeed at every activity. The idea is for you and your child to share the excitement of doing new things; for in the end, the most valuable thing you can teach your child is to enjoy learning.

Preschool screening is available monthly throughout the year for all 3- and 4- year olds in March, to determine if the child is having difficulty in any area of development. If your child is having difficulty, we can arrange appropriate testing.

For more information, please contact:
Early Learning Center
3224 South Banker
Effingham, IL 62401
Phone: 217/540-1460


How does my child learn?
How a child learns will depend upon the readiness of his body, especially his brain and nervous system. A child should not be forced to learn things for which he is not ready, because his lack of success is all too likely to make him unwilling to try to learn other new things.

Our concern here is to encourage as great a variety of worthwhile experiences as possible before the child enters school.

What experiences can I offer my child?

  1. Let's Learn Colors!
    1. Help your child practice identifying colors while he or she is playing.
      For example, you might say, "That's a pretty red truck you have." Talk about colors frequently. Ask questions, such as, "What color is your shirt?" and "Can you find your blue pants?"
    2. Play the game, I SPY. Think of an object in the room and say, "I spy something blue." Ask your child to guess what it is.
  2. Let's Learn Shapes!
    1. Recognition of the six basic shapes is an important pre-reading skill. This skill prepares your child to recognize different letters and words.
    2. Cut shapes out of sandpaper and let your child feel around each shape with his or her fingers.
    3. Help make clay shapes. Roll play-dough into long skinny pieces. Then help him form them into different shapes. Or draw the shapes on the paper and put play-dough over them.
    4. Give your child opportunities to talk about shapes. Encourage him or her to look for shapes in different places -- in dishes, street signs, or boxes at the store. Help him or her name these shapes.
  3. Let's Learn Numbers!
    In order for children to understand what numbers mean, they need to work with them in many different ways.
    1. Talk about numbers and explain to your child that numbers mean how many. Keep in mind that a child who can count to ten does not necessarily understand numbers. The concept of each number must be taught.
      Emphasize number concepts many times during the day. Use statements such as:
      1. Give me 3 cups for Kool-Aid.
      2. Take 2 cookies and give 1 cookie to your friend.
      3. Put 6 plates on the table.
      4. Count the steps to the porch: 1...2...3...
      5. Let's Learn Common Objects!
        Have the child define the common objects found around the home. E.g., "Why do we have chairs?"
    2. Let's Learn "Different" and "Same"!
  1. Point out objects or pictures, asking, "Are they different" and, "How are they the same?"
  2. Let's Learn Concepts!
    Expose your child to the following concepts:
    1. Body parts -- Teach the child parts of his body by playing games, such as Simon Says.
    2. Spatial Relationship -- Point out relationships of objects to others, such as under, over, above, on, in, beside, etc.
    3. Help your child classify articles, pictures, or buttons according to their color, shape, size, etc.


What can I do to help my child's speech? Speech sounds are acquired in a particular order, generally by the ages given below. It is important to note that these ages are approximate and children, as individuals, will vary. The following chart is to help you determine which sounds your child may be expected to use at a given age.

  • By age 3: p, w, m, h, n, b, d, t
  • By age 4: k, g, f, y
  • By age 5: ing, l, s blends
  • By age 6 to 7: s, sh, ch, th, j, r, z, v

There are several things you can do to help your child acquire good speech. Here are a few examples:

  1. Provide a good speech model for your child. Be sure to pronounce words clearly.
  2. Occasionally make mistakes in your own speech and casually correct them. This will help your child understand that everyone makes mistakes at times.
  3. Play a game in which your child imitates the sounds you make. Enunciate the sounds clearly. Be sure to keep this activity enjoyable; don't correct your child. Sometimes you may want to play this game in front of the mirror.
  4. Talk to your child frequently. This will provide many opportunities to practice speaking.
  5. Remember that good speech may be difficult for your child. Praise your child for trying, even if his or her speech is not perfect.


Children must develop a need to communicate through language. Through the use of language, the child learns that he or she can manipulate his or her environment (saying "water" results in the child being given a glass of water).

What can I do to help my child develop better language skills? There are many ways in which you can help your child develop good language skills. Spending ten to fifteen minutes each day doing any of the following activities would be most helpful for your child.

  1. Be a good language model for your child. Talk in simple, complete sentences. Talk about your actions and feelings. Example: "I am putting the meat in the oven. Now I will take out the potatoes and begin to peel them." Also, talk about what the child is experiencing. Example:
    "You are eating a big bowl of hot cereal for breakfast. After breakfast, you will go upstairs and get dressed."
  2. Set aside a time each day for reading to your child. Reading helps children learn the way words are organized to express ideas. Use your local library to provide your child with a variety of stories. Your child will also enjoy "reading" the story to you.
  3. Talk about all the things you see while in the car, at the store, in the park, etc. Be sure to give everything a name; this will increase your child's vocabulary.
  4. Help your child classify objects. For example, when in the store, talk about all the things that are yellow, come in boxes, are various shapes, etc. At home, pick out things that we sit on, read, wear, play with, etc.
  5. Look through magazines and catalogs and talk about the pictures. Action pictures are especially good for helping your child acquire verbs.
  6. Praise your child for speaking. Your child is still learning to use language, so be careful not to expect perfection.

Contact a speech language pathologist if you have a question or concern about your child's speech/language development.


Gross motor skills refer to the large muscle activities and your child's general coordination.

What activities will develop gross motor skills?

  1. Walking -- walking forward, backward and sideways on a board or line with one foot ahead of the other.
  2. Jumping -- jumping activities, such as hop scotch, jumping rope, hopping, skipping, etc.
  3. Balls or Beanbags -- throwing, catching, throwing at a target, rolling, or bouncing.
  4. Riding a bicycle.
  5. Pounding nails into wood.


Why is small muscle development important? Fine motor skills deal with anything using the hand muscles, such as cutting, drawing, printing, etc.

Play is one of the child's ways of learning and showing you that he is learning. It is a natural way of practicing skills already known to him. Toys that develop fine muscles and hand-eye coordination can promote physical development, thus enabling the child to print numbers and letters.

Following are listed activities to help your child develop better small muscle skills:

  1. Coloring, copying, tracing and drawing simple designs.
  2. Cutting activities are very important, especially when a child learns to cut small scraps of paper. Cutting pictures from magazines is fun. Example: "Find all the pictures with circles in them and cut them out."
  3. Teach him how to button, zip, snap, etc.
  4. Copying simple shapes. Begin by tracing shape with fingers, crayon or pencil; or copy with pipe cleaners (bending to make the shape). As skills improve, the child will begin to copy the shapes he sees.
  5. Play-dough. Playing with clay helps to develop the small muscles in their fingers. It is an excellent way to help your child get ready for writing. Before your child can use a pencil successfully, his or her fingers must have the necessary strength and coordination.


A good feeling about one's self is often considered a pre-requisite to learning, or a beginning point toward achieving whatever one is capable of becoming. Each child is "special" and deserves to be accepted at whatever levels of development he or she has attained physically, mentally, socially and emotionally.

  1. Praise the child often for his efforts as well as his successes.
  2. Give your child small jobs around the house to teach him responsibility.


There are thousands of activities that can increase your child's fund of knowledge.

Television certainly has its place in the life of a child. So do the stories you read to him and picture books at which he looks.

Excursions to beaches, parks, museums, art galleries and factories can be real trips of discovery to the child. It is important to discuss these kinds of trips within the family and what they mean to the child. They also tend to teach him recall of facts and experiences. Even a walk to the neighborhood school and playground can expand his world. Let him be your guide on the way home, for example. He can then soon learn to direct you to and from school, the market, a friend's house, etc.

From such simple activities as this, your child will learn to pay attention to details in his environment and respond to them.

Parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters play an important role in the life of a five year old. Attitude is important. If the people the child admires or stays with most feel school and learning is important and enjoyable, so will the child.

PATIENCE is important. If your child becomes frustrated, stop and try another day.

INDEPENDENCE is important. When a child is able to do a task without assistance and work by himself, he or she will do much better in school.

Three words to keep in mind are: